I went to Gainesville (Florida) yesterday with Lena and another couple to visit the Devil’s Millhopper and to see a play. I really enjoyed the play… but since I couldn’t bring my camera in I thought I’d talk about the Millhopper instead.
The Devil’s Millhopper is a gigantic sinkhole way out in the woods on the outskirts of Gainesville. It’s 120 feet deep, and has apparently been there for as much as 15,000 years. We only saw it the one day though so we couldn’t really say.
Entering the sinkhole you can’t really see too much. Even in winter there are too many trees to get a good idea of what you’re walking into. There is a long, twisty walkway that leads down from the lip to the bottom and partway across the base.
Cautionary note: The walkway is seven to ten times longer on the way back up than it is going down. An easy tip is to ignore the numerous informational plaques on your decent, and use them as excuses to stop and catch your breath as you return to the top. I saw one old fellow who looked like he was about to throw up, and his heart was going to be included in the disgorge.
As you go down the plant types get older and older, including plants that haven’t been seen in the area in thousands of years. Pretty cool, but not as cool as all the springs that empty into the walls of the sink, so that the whole of the inside is covered with tiny waterfalls that splash lightly in all directions. It is an intensely peaceful place.
One helpful plaque told us that the name Devil’s Millhopper likely came from the apparent fad of naming anything cavelike or subterranean after the devil, and that there was really nothing nefarious about it. On the same plaque it sort of mentioned that it also might have had something to do with the fact that the whole floor of the place was covered in bones and skeletons when it was first found… so that could have played a part as well.
The ranger told us that there was eighty feet of water in the Millhopper during the last hurricane and that the place filled up with catfish. Who knows where they came from. The whole thing is basically a giant drain into the aquifer, so the water didn’t last too long. (Much to the chagrin of the catfish, and the delight of the local bird population.)
Incidentally, the picture to the left is not a miniature recreation, but is actually the floor of the sink. Lena played with it a bit to make our friends Ron and Tonya look like toy people. Aren’t they cute?